What Is Karate-Do?
While there have been countless films depicting martial arts, and reams of material produced to describe it, little has been made or written of what the true essence of karate-do is.
To the layman, karate is a catchphrase for “fighting”. In actuality, fighting has a limited association with how a true karate-ka (practitioner) regards their art. The true way of karate training requires inner-balance, compassion, and clarity in all situations. The key word is ‘all situations’. These virtues in a self-defense (or fighting) situation certainly are important – better to be calm and clear-minded in a real-life confrontation, and better to show compassion than to go beyond the immediate needs of self-protection than to lack in all these areas. Yet the training of the true Karate-ka is to develop these very same virtues in their lives.
This is by no means stating that the physical side of true karate-do is of lesser importance but rather stating that most people generally focus too much on the physical. Physical prowess, development, and expansion should be a goal for any true karate-ka, but so to should spiritual fortitude, mental focus and the development of a gentle compassionate character.
The term karate-do means that we are diligent in our quest for optimum performance, inner-balance and maintaining a positive attitude whether in dojo practice, schoolwork, business, family or in our communities at large. Therefore the Karate-ka expected to demonstrate his/her spiritual, mental and physical strength in the most honourable and productive ways possible, and in every possible arena. Furthermore, he/she is expected to be the advocate of honorable principles whenever the opportunity presents itself. In other words, the term karate-do extends far more than self-defense. It is a way of life requiring a conscientious, honorable approach in every area of our lives.
Karate-Do in Sport Karate
In terms of sports karate (or tournament karate), the true essence and test of a karate champion require the ideals of sportsmanship and citizenship at the highest levels. Win or lose, the karate-ka walks tall with confidence that is spirited but not over-inflated; he or she regards their opponent with respect not overestimating or underestimating his/her ability. He /she never neglects the protocol required nor do they ever take the respect they are shown for granted.
True sports karate-do is not only an exhibition of great skills in both kata and ku- mite but an exhibition of dignity as well. Anything other than the highest level of strong attitude and deportment on the part of the karate-ka is not acceptable. Karate tournaments help us to discern not only the dominant physical skill levels developed by man but also those innate skills required of the most elevated part of man. In other words, in the contest arena that sports karate provides, we are able to see a person’s true character come to life by observing how they respond to such things as defeat and victory. By their actions they take when in front or behind on a scoreboard. By how they hold themselves while walking alone into a ring to perform their kata.
“The karate-ka walks tall with confidence that is spirited but not over- inflated; he or she regards their opponent with respect not overestimating or underestimating his/her ability”
Developing True Karate-Do Skills
Karate-do skills are not developed through mindless practice. But rather they demand the cultivation of our most virtuous selves and the strength to define, as well as defend, the highest principles of man. Therefore developing true karate-do skill is not an easy process and does not come just by learning a few techniques well. It is a journey of mind, body, and spirit and takes time to develop. However, once developed it will not only enrich the lives of the practitioner but all those around them.